What Is Indiana Known For?

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Situated in the Midwest Region in the “Heartland of America”, the state of Indiana, better known as the “Hoosier State” is where agriculture, basketball and motorsports reign supreme. What is Indiana known for? Home to the annual Indy 500 and the birthplace of professional baseball, Indiana is as much a sporting mecca as it is a state notorious for its large corn, wheat and soybean yields.

The Hoosier State isn’t all farming and small-town living, however, with Indianapolis’ cosmopolitan streets and trendy stores a perfect contrast to the state’s low-key reputation. Indiana is a destination renowned for its rich limestone deposits, its famous private university and being the birthplace of “Larry Legend”, one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Here’s what Indiana is known for.

What Is Indiana Known For?

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1- The Indy 500

World Racing
The Indy 500 is an event Indiana is best known for.

One of the most storied motorsports events in the world, the Indianapolis 500, better known simply as the “Indy 500”, is a world-renowned open-wheel racing series that is one of three events making up the Triple Crown of Motorsport.

Taking place annually over Memorial Day weekend, the Indy 500 forms part of the IndyCar Series and has historically been organised at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a 2.5-mile-long (4 km) racecourse known by many motorsports enthusiasts simply as “The Brickyard”.

The Indy 500’s inaugural race took place in 1911 and boasts 500 miles (805 km) of fast-paced, high-octane racing that attracts some of the biggest names in motorsports attempting to win the Triple Crown every year.

Only rivalled by the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the world’s premier racing spectacle, the Indy 500 regularly draws crowds of over 300,000 spectators and is without a doubt the state of Indiana’s most notable sporting event.

2- Agriculture

Field Plated With Soybeans And Corn Ready To Harvest
Soybeans and cornfields are what Indiana is known for.

Situated in the Midwest, Indiana has long been seen as little more than a flyover state in large part due to the state’s rich agricultural culture, with Indiana responsible for producing most of the United States’ corn, soybeans and poultry every year.

Rather than shy away from it, Indiana completely embraced its agricultural roots and traditions, with the agricultural sector being one of the largest employers in Indiana and a source of pride for thousands of Hoosiers.

The biggest economic boon in Indiana is without doubt agriculture, with the state ranking among the top 10 when it comes to annual crop and livestock yields, with Indiana producing everything from peppermint and spearmint to wheat and pumpkin.

3- Indianapolis

Downtown Of Indianapolis
Indianapolis is a city Indiana is known for.

Known simply as “Indy”, Indianapolis is the most populated city in the state of Indiana and the third-largest size-wise in the entire Midwest region behind only Chicago and Columbus.

Indianapolis shares a unique relationship with transportation which has earned the city two nicknames, the “Crossroads of America” and the “Railroad City”, with a complex network of roads and public transportation options connecting downtown Indy with several major cities across the United States.

Indy is a popular travel destination in the Midwest due to the city’s accessibility and great line-up of attractions, which include the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

A truly unmatched destination in the Hoosier State, Indy is the official capital city of Indiana and a vastly different sight than rural Indiana’s rolling farmland and sparsely-populated towns.

4- Basketball

No sport is as popular in the state of Indiana as basketball, especially high school basketball, which has seen the Hoosier State produce some of the NBA’s biggest and brightest stars.

High school basketball is such a popular tradition in the Hoosier State that it even has its own state of excitement, known as “Hoosier Hysteria”, which refers to the palpable tension and anticipation surrounding the annual Indiana High School Boys Basketball Tournament.

Indiana high schools produce the most NBA calibre talent per capita than any other state public schooling system in the United States, with the state’s annual high school basketball tournament drawing larger crowds than any other high school basketball tournament in the nation.

Some notable NBA stars who came through the Indiana high school basketball ranks include Larry Bird, Gregg Popovich and Gordon Hayward, cementing the Hoosier State’s legacy in the sport of basketball.

5- Sugar Cream Pie

Pie Thats Pleasing To The Eye
Sugar cream pies come to mind when thinking about what food Indiana is known for.

A timeless yet incredibly popular culinary delicacy throughout Indiana is the Sugar Cream Pie, a quick and easy-to-make pie that’s typically made from sugar, butter, vanilla, flour and milk or cream.

Sugar Cream Pie, also commonly called “Hoosier Pie” or simply “Sugar Pie”, is a variant of your typical custard pie that’s best described as a ‘desperation pie’ due to not using any eggs to make the pie’s filling.

This uniquely Indiana delicacy is widely considered to be Indiana’s unofficial state pie and is widely produced by large pie manufacturers throughout the Hoosier State and is also a prized family heirloom recipe in many Indiana households.

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6- The University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame Golden Dome In Fall
The University of Notre Dame is one of the institutions Indiana is known for.

The University of Notre Dame is an internationally renowned private Catholic research university situated in the small Indiana city of South Bend that’s perhaps best known for its incredibly successful collegiate sports programs.

Nicknamed the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the university’s collegiate sports teams have won dozens of National Championships between them, with 11 National Championships won by the varsity football team alone.

Notre Dame also excels academically on the national and international stages, featuring a long list of notable alumni who have achieved great success in the worlds of politics, business, science and the arts.

No other university is as synonymous with Indiana as the University of Notre Dame, with the institution boasting a scenic campus and several one-of-a-kind Indiana landmarks.

7- The First Professional Baseball Game

Indiana Baseball
Baseball is a sport Indiana is known for.

Despite being invented in Upstate New York, the first professional game of baseball was played in Fort Wayne, Indiana, between the Fort Wayne Kekiongas and the Cleveland Forest Citys on May 4, 1871.

The game was a sanctioned professional game of the newly created National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, the first pro baseball league in the United States.

Rained out during the top of the 9th inning, the game saw the Kekiongas defeat the Forest Citys 2-0 and drew a crowd of about 200 baseball fans, paving the way forward for professional baseball in the United States.

8- Indiana Limestone

Limestone Campus Building In Indiana
Indiana limestone is one of the things Indiana is known for.

Indiana Limestone, or Bedford Limestone as it’s also commonly referred to, is perhaps one of the Hoosier State’s most storied exports, with Indiana Limestone used in the construction of some of the most important and iconic structures throughout the United States.

About 35 out of 50 state capitol buildings were constructed using Indiana Limestone, including the Empire State Building, D.C.’s National Cathedral and the Biltmore Estate.

Native Americans were the first to discover limestone deposits in modern-day Indiana, with the first limestone quarry popping up in the Hoosier State around 1827.

With most of Indiana’s government buildings and monuments built using Indiana Limestone, it’s among the Hoosier State’s most recognisable resources and helped shape some of modern-day America’s most eye-catching architectural marvels.

9- Indiana Is Home To A Town Called Santa Claus

In the Hoosier State’s southwest corner, Santa Claus is a charming Midwest city that comes to life every year during Christmas when the entire area gets decorated in blankets of snow, colourful light displays and the odd spotting of Santa Claus himself.

The city was initially founded in 1854 as Santa Fe before being renamed in 1856 and is today home to numerous landmarks and traditional holiday decorations paying homage to the city’s famous North Pole namesake.

Boasting everything from a Santa Claus statue and Santa’s Candy Castle to the official Santa Claus Museum, the town of Santa Claus is a unique spot in Indiana where urban explorers can learn more about the town’s history and soak up the city’s year-round festive atmosphere.

10- Abraham Lincoln

Dollar Bill
Abraham Lincoln is a famous person Indiana is known for.

Even though he wasn’t born in the Hoosier State, the 16th President of the United States Abraham Lincoln spent much of his childhood years growing up in Indiana’s Perry County, with his family arriving in Indiana during 1816 when Lincoln was around seven years old.

Lincoln’s father, Thomas Lincoln, moved his family to Indiana, a “free territory”, from neighbouring Kentucky in search of more reliable land titles after the family lost most of their 200-acre (81 ha) Kentucky property due to property title disputes.

Lincoln called Indiana home until his move to Illinois in March of 1830 when he was 21 years old, with the Hoosier State credited with igniting his love for reading and writing poetry.

It’s safe to say that Lincoln would never have become an illustrious American politician and eventual US President if not for his time spent in Indiana, with the Hoosier State playing a pretty important role in shaping Lincoln into the excellent statesman he eventually became.

11- Hoosiers

Known simply as “Hoosiers”, the residents of Indiana share perhaps one of the most unique nicknames of any state in the nation even though the exact origin of the term remains unknown.

The origins of the term Hoosier is a hotly debated topic throughout Indiana, with many theories doing the rounds without a single one that’s universally accepted, but despite all this, the term has been widely accepted by Indiana residents since the 1840s.

The term has garnered a special place in Indiana pop culture and folklore and is used as the nickname for the University of Indiana’s varsity sports teams and several businesses and organisations throughout the state.

12- The Legend of Johnny Appleseed

Right up there with the tale of Paul Bunyan as one of the Midwest’s most elusive and mysterious folk heroes, the legend of Johnny Appleseed tells the story of the man responsible for introducing apple farming to the United States.

According to legend, Johnny Appleseed was born in Massachusetts in 1774 as John Chapman and was the son of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Chapman, with Nathaniel serving in the military during the American Revolutionary War.

Johnny began heading west in 1792 at 18 years of age, travelling through Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley before arriving in Indiana, planting apple seeds in nurseries along the way.

The legend of Johnny Appleseed began to take off following his death in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1845, developing into a beloved folk tale that’s inspired countless festivals, films and books.

13- Lake Michigan

Forming the southeast shore of Lake Michigan, one of the Great Lakes of North America, Indiana boasts some of the best beaches and scenic coastlines of any Midwest state.

Home to roughly 40 miles (64 km) of shoreline, the Hoosier State protects about 15 miles (24 km) of coastline as part of the Indiana Dunes National Park and is a busy spot during the summertime among travellers from land-locked states such as Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky.

Whilst sharing a coastline with Lake Michigan is in no way unique to Indiana, it’s the Hoosier State’s tiny sliver of it and the state’s adjacent national park which makes it such an unforgettable part of the state that’s among the most popular outdoor attractions in Indiana.

14- The Birthplace of Larry Bird

Indiana’s most famous son is undoubtedly three-time NBA Champion, 12-time NBA All-Star and Hall of Famer Larry Bird, who rose through the ranks of Indiana high school basketball during the early 1970s.

Born Larry Joe Bird on December 7, 1956, in the rural Indiana town of French Lick, “Larry Legend” earned the nickname “The Hick from French Lick” and represented the Indiana State University Sycamores for three seasons before being drafted 6th overall in the 1978 NBA draft.

Considered by many as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Bird is the only person in NBA history to win the Rookie of the Year, Finals MVP, Most Valuable Player, All-Star MVP, Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year awards during his time on and off the court.

15- The World’s Largest Children’s Museum

Recognised as the largest children’s museum in the world by floor space, the 472,900-square-foot (43,934 m2) Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is a one-of-a-kind attraction in the Midwest that’s famed for its world-class exhibits on natural science, arts & humanities, and space exploration.

Established back in 1925 by Mary Stewart Carey, the museum has grown into one of the world’s leading interactive museums and boasts a 310-seat theatre and a collection of more than 130,000 individual artefacts on display across 5 separate floors.

Easily recognisable thanks to its life-size dinosaur statue out in front, the museum regularly draws crowds of more than 1.4 million visitors every year and remains one of the most popular educational spaces in the entire United States

Map Of United States With Indiana Highlight
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Jessica Shaw is a storyteller who has lived in four U.S. states - Missouri, Georgia, Ohio and Illinois - and has visited many others. She loves history and nature and is a big fan of road tripping.